IIITs to get statutory status; Par passes bill

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New Delhi: Parliament today passed a bill to grant statutory status to the Indian Institutes of Information Technology in private-partnership mode after the government assured members that reservation policy would apply there.

The Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public- Private Partnership) Bill, 2017 seeks to grant statutory status to 15 IIITs and declare them as ‘Institutions of National Importance’.

It seeks to enable these institutions to grant degrees to their students in the academic courses conducted by them. The Lok Sabha had passed the legislation on July 19 and the Upper House passed it today by a voice vote.

Replying to the debate on the Bill, Minister of State for HRD Mahendra Nath Pandey assured opposition members that the government has “ensured representation of SC/STs” in this law and urged them to support the Bill as “a step towards making of modern India.”

The reservation policy would be followed in admission of the students, he said, while responding to the issue raised by D Raja of CPI.

As some members still remained unsatisfied, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien intervened and said “There will be reservation. It is there in the Bill. Why are you doubting?”

“The Minister has given assurance that there will be reservation. If there is violation of this assurance, you can come back to the House,” the Deputy Chairman said.

After Kurien’s remark, the Bill was passed by the Upper House through voice vote. This is the first Bill “without any amendments moved by Congress member T Subbarami Reddy”, Kurien said in a lighter vein.

Earlier, Raja asked why the government was not openly stating in the Bill that it will follow the states’ policy of reservation. “Statement must be unambiguous. There should not be any grey area”.

The minister said the Bill would help in providing job opportunities to youth and boost skill development, which has been a major focus and achievement of his government. He said the government was also stressing on humanities subjects.

He said the private institutions have also played an important role in improving the quality of educuation in the country.

Academic session has commenced in 15 such IIITs, including those in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana and West Bengal. The first batch of undergraduate students enrolled in 2013-14 will be passing out in this year.

As many as 15 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) set up under public-private partnership mode will soon be granted the powers to award degrees to their students.

The power of IIITs to grant degrees would enhance their acceptability and since students of five such institutes would be completing their graduation in July and August this year, there is an urgent need to confer the statutory status on them, it said.

To help address the challenges faced by the country’s information technology industry, the government has decided to set up 20 IIITs under the public-private partnership mode.

Among others, the bill provides powers to “hold examinations and grant degrees, diplomas and other academic distinctions or title and to confer honorary degrees”.

Participating in the debate on the bill, M V Rajeev Gowda (Congress) said he supported the measure as the field of IT has made India proud and the PPP model has proved to be a tremendous success.

“It is important that these institutions open their doors and enable themselves to be more relevant to the area they are operating in,” Gowda said, adding that such institutes should create a cadre of cyber security professionals which can be utilised by the government as the threat of cyber attacks is mounting.

He said the institutes must also play a role in triggering the startup culture in the country.

Basawaraj Patil (BJP) stressed the need for India to improve upon its capability in producing innovations, observing that the US and Europe have overtaken it in this regard and the country lags way behind globally in innovation.

He drew the government’s attention towards reports of the high dropout rates from IITs and also towards the poor mobile connectivity issues hindering India’s progress.

Samajawadi Party’s Naresh Agarwal pointed towards the PPP model in the ratio of 50:35:15 prevalent in IIITs, wherein 50 per cent of the contribution is made by the Centre, 35 per cent by the state where the institute is set up and 15 per cent by the private establishments identified for the purpose.

Agarwal urged the government to enhance the participation of the private sector in the PPP model, questioning why it will invest even 15 per cent if it does not get ownership or management control of the institute. He suggested that the government should link education with employment.

Vijila Sathyananth (AIADMK) highlighted the need for a common syllabus throughout the country, saying students faced problems in clearing competitive entrance exams for institutes like IITs and IIITs due to the lack of uniformity in syllabus.

Nadimul Haque of Trinamool Congress asked the government to clarify the vetting process for inviting private participation in the PPP model in IIITs. He also called for standardisation of the fee structure and pointed towards the massive layoffs in the IT sector in recent times.

K K Ragesh of the CPI (M) said he was opposed to the concept of PPP in education and its privatisation. He said the socially backward students must be admitted to institutes like the IIITs in line with the present reservation policy.

Prasanna Acharya (BJD) said the Bill will enable the IIITs to give degrees and impart a certain level of autonomy to them, while Veer Singh (BSP) said the situation with regard to higher education, especially in rural areas, is really bad and required the government’s attention.

Vijayasai Reddy of the YSRCP claimed that the IIITS were not following the reservation policy, while D Raja of CPI termed the PPP as a “every deceptive concept” and opposed it.

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